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Language Death!

language death essay

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Language Death and Endangered Languages

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Language is basic in people’s lives; it is the thing that takes to separate among creatures and people, it is the thing that we use to get ourselves. Upon all its status in human life, individuals are as yet crying of language vanishing, in light of the fact that numerous kicked the bucket and some are imperiled. There are a few inquiries that expected to be posed, however just few were raised. We endeavored to take a gander at significant regions, for example, the significance of dialects, the insights of dialects, what truly caused the danger, and an exit plan (arrangement).

However, the issue is tremendous, yet we attempted and limited ourselves down to the insignificant dimension only not to confound perusers.


There are about six to seven thousand languages in the world today but the hurting or terrible thing is at the end of the 21st century almost half of these languages would have perished. According to Crystal (2000, 19) it is estimated that in every two weeks or so a language will die off somewhere in this world.


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Miroslav 2010 quoted Ethnologue (2005 12) there are about 51 languages (now 50) around the world that have only one speaker left: 8 languages (now 7) in the USA, 3 in South America, 3 in Africa, 6 in Asia, 28 in Australia, and 3 in the pacific ocean islands. Nearly or almost 500 languages have less than 100 speakers; 1,500 languages are spoken by less than 1,000 speakers; 3,000 or so languages have up to 10,000 speakers; and 500 languages have no more than 100,000 speakers. It has been calculated that about ninety-six percent (96%) of the world’s languages are spoken by about or only four percent (4%) of the globe’s population.

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Most of us feel we could never become extinct. The Dodo felt that way too. (William Cuppy) Dead languageA dead language is a language which is never again spoken by anybody as their principle language, or a language, for example, Latin, that is never again learned as a local language by a discourse network. At the point when the last speaker of a language bites the dust, the language also incredible. At times it isn’t important to trust that the last speaker will pass on before considering the language as dead on the grounds that the last speaker has nobody to address fluidly or habitually.

Thus, the language is wiped out, comparable to dead. There are a few voices that accepted to be the last speakers of their dialects. A few years back in Haci Osman in Turkey Linguists went into the town to record TevficEsen” who accepted to be the last speaker of Ubykh Language. He couldn’t chat with his own youngsters, since they have turned out to be Turkish. What he needed to be composed on his grave, he has officially composed it on the grave stone in 1984 “This is grave of TevficEsen”. He was the last individual ready to talk the language they called Ubykh.” With the passing of Esen” in 1992, Ubykh too joined the regularly expanding number of terminated dialects. We should take for example, Walsh language which was dead a few years back, notwithstanding the purpose of rejuvenation it has turned into a terminated and pursued the other dead dialects In Southern Carolina, four years after, a Native American called Red Thundercloud additionally kicked the bucket as the last voice of passing on tongue (Wappo).

Endangered Languages

If individuals think that its simpler for them to utilize dialects that are anything but difficult to direct business and impart in them, for example, English, Dutch, Spanish, Italia and so on., at that point you will discover that the more youthful ones are not utilizing the nearby dialects, or if the more youthful ones are not being instructed in the dialects verbally expressed by a set number of individuals (Elizabeth Malone) that implies few individuals are utilizing the dialects, at that point they steadily pass on. An imperiled language is one that is probably going to turned out to be wiped out sooner rather than later. Numerous dialects are bombing out of utilization and being supplanted by others that are all the more broadly utilized in the locale or country, for example, English in the U.S. or on the other hand Spanish in Mexico. Except if current patterns are turned around, these imperiled dialects will wind up wiped out inside the following century. Numerous different dialects are never again being scholarly by new ages of kids or by new grown-up speakers; these dialects will wind up wiped out when their last speaker bites the dust. Truth be told, many dialects today have just a single local speaker as yet living, and that individual’s passing will mean the annihilation of the language:

Dialects are characterized or level as indicated by the accompanying

There are factors for the loss of language

These components regularly result in social osmosis or even massacre contrast it and/to language, social, and instructive strategies that have occurred in the past time. Today it is difficult or basic to rebuff individuals for rehearsing or utilizing their dialects, still dialects keep on dying. How Languages Die?People are the main species on the planet whose correspondence framework displays gigantic assorted variety. Also, phonetic assorted variety is vital for understanding our ability for language. An expansion in environmental change related cataclysmic events may influence etymological assorted variety. A genuine model is Vanuatu, an island state in the Pacific, with a significant sensational ongoing ascent in ocean levels. There are more than 7,000 dialects spoken on the planet today. These dialects show colossal decent variety, from the quantity of unmistakable sounds (there are dialects with as few as 11 distinct sounds and upwards of 118) to the tremendous scope of conceivable word requests, structures and ideas that dialects use to pass on importance.

Each total that etymologists have set has been tested, and etymologists are occupied with discussing if there is anything at all that is regular to all dialects on the planet or anything at all that does not exist in the dialects of the world. Gesture based communications demonstrate to us that dialects don’t should be spoken. This decent variety is proof of the huge adaptability and pliancy of the human mind and its ability for correspondence. Contemplating differing dialects gives us precious bits of knowledge into human perception. Be that as it may, language assorted variety is in danger. Dialects are kicking the bucket each year.

Frequently a language’s passing is recorded when the last realized speaker kicks the bucket, and around 35 percent of dialects on the planet are at present losing speakers or are all the more genuinely imperiled. The greater part of these have never been recorded thus would be lost until the end of time. Etymologists gauge that 50 percent of the dialects verbally expressed today will vanish in the following 100 years. Some even contend that up to 90 percent of the present dialects will have vanished by 2115. Why dialects bite the dust?There are numerous reasons why dialects bite the dust. The reasons are frequently political, monetary or social in nature. Speakers of a minority language may, for instance, conclude that it is better for their youngsters’ future to show them a language that is attached to financial achievement. For instance, most by far of second-age foreigners to the United States don’t talk their folks’ dialects fluidly. It is financially and socially progressively gainful to communicate in English.

Relocation likewise assumes a vast job in language change and language demise. At the point when speakers of Proto-Indo-European moved to the vast majority of Europe and huge pieces of Asia somewhere in the range of 6,000 and 8,000 years back, they most likely achieved enormous language change and language demise. In Western Europe, Basque could be the main present day language that endures the convergence of the Indo-Europeans. In the coming hundreds of years, we may encounter an expansion in atmosphere related relocation. It is now evident that environmental change impacts current relocation designs. Atmosphere related calamities dislodged an expected 20m individuals in 2008. Vanuatu and assorted varietyThe regions influenced by atmosphere related fiascos are regularly ones that show incredible phonetic assorted variety and incorporate dialects with little quantities of speakers, which are particularly helpless.

The danger confronting islanders in Vanuatu isn’t only because of rising ocean levels. Later structural developments have likewise made pieces of certain islands sink. Therefore, an entire seaside town must be moved further inland from 2002 to 2004. This provoked a 2005 United Nations Environment Program public statement to consider these townspeople the world’s first environmental change displaced people. These environmental change exiles happen to live in a nation that has one of the largest amounts of phonetic decent variety on the planet. Vanuatu is the third most semantically different nation on the planet, as estimated by the Greenberg list. The file demonstrates the probability that two arbitrarily chosen speakers in a nation have distinctive local dialects. Vanuatu’s Greenberg record is an amazing 97.3 percent.

Vanuatu has 110 indigenous dialects spoken in a zone of around 15,000 square kilometers (around 6,000 square miles)” that is around one language for each 136 square kilometers. Half of the dialects verbally expressed on Vanuatu have 700 speakers or less. Losing dialects to cataclysmic eventsA portion of the nations influenced by the tremor and tidal wave that slaughtered around 230,000 individuals in 2004 are additionally all around semantically differing. India has 447 indigenous dialects and a Greenberg assorted variety file of 91.4 percent and Indonesia has 706 indigenous dialects and a Greenberg decent variety list of 81.6 percent. Scientists had quite recently found the Dusner language, which had just a bunch of outstanding speakers, when flooding in 2010 crushed the Papua district ofIndonesia, where the Dusner town is found. Fortunately, a portion of the speakers had endure, and the language could be recorded. Regularly, we don’t know decisively what impact cataclysmic events have on the dialects verbally expressed in influenced zones. What we can be sure of is that ecological weights increment portability and relocation and that movement influences language change and passing. A further increment in atmosphere related catastrophes may additionally quicken the vanishing of dialects. This would be a terrible misfortune for the general population and societies included, however for psychological science too.

Language protection

Half of the dialects speak to immense, generally unmapped territory on which Philosophers, Linguists, and Cognitive Scientists can graph the full abilities and points of confinement of the human personality. These dialects every one of them has an interesting neighborhood learning of characteristic framework and societies in the area or where it is spoken. To comprehend mankind’s history, you need these dialects as a wellspring of proof. Davis 2003 “TedTalk” said that language isn’t just exist to express vocabularies and linguistic guidelines rather it is the thing that made people their identity. “Language isn’t only a collection of vocabulary or a set linguistic guideline. A language is a glimmer of human soul. It is a vehicle through which the spirit of every specific culture comes into the material world. Each language is an old-development woods of the psyche, a watershed, an idea, a biological system of profound conceivable outcomes.” Wade Davis, Ted Talks 2003 Apart from the uniqueness of the information related to those dialects, the reason(s) for their passing was not recorded or reported for example both the dialects and the information. Heather Lotherington stated, the way to all learning is language and it isn’t right for any language to guarantee that, just that language is a special method to procure information.

Some executioner dialects such English, French among others do feel this thought. Tsunoda 2012 thought of a recommendation that dialects should be archived in light of the fact that once a language is lost there would be no chance to record it. Subsequently, it is imperative to make a sufficient documentation of dialects while there is a chance. Tsunoda said during the time spent recording jeopardized dialects or any language so far as that is concerned, there are sure methodology to be pursued or ought to be go for the accompanying dimension of value (Craig 1997: 265; Lehman 1999: 5-6) ” an) exactness: a) the documentation must be as dependable as could be allowed, and; b) completeness: the documentation must be finished as would be prudent. That is, it “ought to give a genuine introduction of the language” (Mithun 2001: 52).

In perspective on these points, especially (b), it is imperative to adopt an all encompassing strategy, rather a restricted methodology. A comprehensive methodology means to record a language overall, including its socio-social foundation (Tsunoda 1998b)” Tsunoda 2012 Lenore and Whaley checked on book (imperiled language 1998) in which they took a gander at the present issue in the field of phonetic about minority and neglect dialects. Janet was stating that there is dependably exertion to safeguard language by people or by certain societies with regards to the issue of language misfortune, where she identified with Nancy Dorian’s work on Western Language Ideologies. She expressed that one of the components that contributed for the loss of dialects in minority networks is trashing.

Additionally, bilingualism and nonstandard dialects are the basic components for low esteem of minority dialects. This must be changed when the societal position of the minority language speakers is redesigned, use for religious purposes and dismissal of European qualities. The potential odds of all these are extremely negligible. Lenore and Whaley likewise analyzed the general characterization of language upkeep, where they alluded to Edwards’ model of (1992) for variables of language support, recommended that there is a requirement for this model to be improved so it tends to be connected to or obliges each network. Tsunoda (2012) again saying that on one hand dialects are vanishing while then again exertion were made to safeguard those dialects that are imperiled and even to bring into life the ones that become wiped out. We continue discussing “language conservation” however the term in phonetic field has or alluded to numerous names. Thus, Tsunoda (2012)

Steps should be taken to keep dialects from biting the dust

There are loads of ways should be pursued on the most proficient method to stop or hindering language passing.

Coming up next are a portion of the means:

By enabling the neighborhood individuals and not meddling with their lifestyle and how they oversee them selves If the political control by political elites is lifted, the purposes behind surrendering a language are additionally debilitated At the point when such advances are taken, the issue of losing dialects will be lessen definitely, and a great deal of societies and information would be spared, in light of the fact that we referenced before that each language has a special arrangement of learning and culture.

Finally, we found and saw that dialects are so significant and vital in human life, and we need them in all that we do. There are loads of dialects that are wiped out and many are jeopardized. These dialects are wiped out and should be relieved particularly in America and Australia. What we have seen, it is obligations of the two etymologists and administrations of different states to profoundly include in saving these dialects by archiving and recording them as entire, if conceivable resuscitate some terminated ones. This isn’t sufficient, given these dialects a chance to be educated and utilized as a mode of guidance in primary schools and media houses at the neighborhood networks where they exist. Language is our personality, let us spare it.

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Language Death and Endangered Languages

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Language Death: Cultural Issue Or Moral Panic?

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language death essay

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Language Death Process Causes and Factors

Introduction, causes of death of a language, the beginning of the process of death of a language, lost factors when a language dies, two illustrations by harrison, works cited.

Language is one of the important tools and communication methods that human beings deserve to embrace over the past decade and still do. In the modern society, different strategies to promote the language creativity and active interactions have been a success. As much as people tend to cope with different values and cultural practices in the background of the language, it is difficult to understand how the evaluation of the characteristics can be fed without any trigger. This study will focus on the causes of death of a language, where the process begins, how it is carried out backing up the prove using the book that has an illustration of how individual language speakers are coerced into giving up their language. The study will also discuss on the factor that is lost when a language dies, describing the answer using a book and finally choose the two illustrations when discussing the examples given by Harrison, on how ‘each language has its own window on the world.’

Miscommunication and lack of mutual understanding may lead to the death of a language, as there are no channels to convey a message from a certain source. Provision of the various equipment meant to express a certain language have been an effective way to trigger its rise, though this has been in vain since as long as the communication links are cut, the language naturally dies.

The cultural values of people in a certain community would depend on the beliefs based on the language and total tolerance for these factors. These values may interfere with the communication channel through the illustrations given using direction. Language is a critic that seeks to identify differentiation and provide factors that will promote its existence. If some environmental elements are a hindrance within this context, the aim is dead, and the outcome is a negative communication causing language barrier. The death of language consists of the individual’s perceptions towards the same approach.

Individuals with the abilities to illustrate proper grounds that will ascertain the channel of information and communication embrace the actions based on the causes of death of a language, and the effects of the transformation efforts. Every process in the context of literature has a beginning that catalyzes the rest of the program. In the death of a language, the focus is based on the mutual understanding and communication skills issued through a certain ground, using a particular audience who need to address the issues. The process is manipulated by anxiety and the feelings of disclosure and pessimism that promote criticism based on the manner it is evaluated, and the ways through which the structures have an impact on the rest of the process. Identifying the resources from the language content might affect the fading of the factor due to the quality of information used; for a wrong audience in a wrong format and period.

The individual language speakers are triggered by the commonalities within a setup to express their language facts using the opportunities surrounding the platform. Manipulating some status or circumstances such as misinterpretations of words or sentences, may provide an opportunity for the speakers to give up on their language. Proper decision-making that might be an issue in the event of promoting growth and development of a language may influence the actual reality for the same input.

The main point from the language connections and the proper evaluation of the resources are the content of the information. When this factor dies, the language used is as good as dead. The communication background and the outcome may affect the audience, and the individuals would feel manipulated, leading to the denial and declarations to suing the language that a community seemed comfortable in. Accurate and critical thinking through the approach on awareness and feedback may affect the progression of a language. The effects of proper decisions made are drawn from the polite feedback giving, and it is upon individuals to provide outstanding ground based on the same platform.

Another element that is lost during the process is trust and confidence from individuals who opted for a particular language that never worked. Depending on the reliability of issues that affect the language of a certain group, having an important factor channeled at producing the same decision will depend on how the information issued is convincing, and the strategies used for the outcome of the same content, as considered and emulated by the abundance. Confidence in a language will be possible through the right quality of information from the same language, promoting an outcome that will eliminate negative thinking through a firm’s decision-making process (Nicholas 55). Constant communication and information development within a certain language depends on the frequent efforts to channel the same communication. Focusing on the accurate choice of words and ensuring that their arrangements are formal and attract the attention of the users, will depend on the feedback from the same individuals.

Harrison believed in the language introduction, productivity, creativity and the factors that may lead to its absence. One illustration that Harrison puts forth is the Karaim language that is spoken in Lithuania. This language, as illustrated by Harrison, it became obsolete with time, losing its status as the common language spoken in this part of the world. As such, for with it vanished “an accretion of many centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, infinity, and the everyday” (Nicholas 55). The death of a language, as depicted by Harrison, covers on an emphasized quote on how each language has its own window on the world.

This means that the content of a particular language is deterministic of its futuristic characteristics, which speculate the period the language might survive as it is on its own, and the other factors will depend on the response from the users. Another illustration depicted by Harrison is the Munda people otherwise the ‘leaf-cup people’ from India. To this end, Harrison states that “the loss of a language is like dropping a bomb on a museum” (Nicholas 59). Nevertheless, accurate decision-making may trigger the growth as well, depending on the region the language is used, and some forms of emulation from the background to the conclusion of the history. Constant from the language will determine the other department of a language and its exploration within the societal setup.

Having a common understanding based on the factors of growth, development, content and social skills within a communication channel will ascertain the ways in which a language is known. The death of a language depends on the users and their environment. Philosophical approach towards discussion of emotions and events that are expressed from a certain angle of the language efforts will protect the reputation of a language, depending on the ways the users redefine and identify it. Self-motivation and critical thinking are some factors to be determined when discussing on the benefits of proper communication as well as self-image and body language as the user settles at the language.

Nicholas, Evans. Dying words: Endangered languages and what they have to tell us . New York: Random, 2011. Print.

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The death of languages | Aeon

Katrina Esau, one of the last remaining speakers of a Khoisan language that was thought extinct nearly 40 years ago, teaches her native tongue to a group of school children in Upington, South Africa on 21 September 2015. Photo by Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty

The death of languages

Endangered languages have sentimental value, it’s true, but are there good philosophical reasons to preserve them?

by Rebecca Roache   + BIO

The year 2010 saw the death of Boa Senior, the last living speaker of Aka-Bo, a tribal language native to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. News coverage of Boa Senior’s death noted that she had survived the 2004 tsunami – an event that was reportedly foreseen by tribe elders – along with the Japanese occupation of 1942 and the barbaric policies of British colonisers. The linguist Anvita Abbi, who knew Boa Senior for many years, said: ‘After the death of her parents, Boa was the last Bo speaker for 30 to 40 years. She was often very lonely and had to learn an Andamanese version of Hindi in order to communicate with people.’

Tales of language extinction are invariably tragic. But why, exactly? Aka-Bo, like many other extinct languages, did not make a difference to the lives of the vast majority of people. Yet the sense that we lose something valuable when languages die is familiar. Just as familiar, though, is the view that preserving minority languages is a waste of time and resources. I want to attempt to make sense of these conflicting attitudes.

The simplest definition of a minority language is one that is spoken by less than half of some country or region. This makes Mandarin – the world’s most widely spoken language – a minority language in many countries. Usually, when we talk of minority languages, we mean languages that are minority languages even in the country in which they are most widely spoken. That will be our focus here. We’re concerned especially with minority languages that are endangered, or that would be endangered were it not for active efforts to support them.

The sorrow we feel about the death of a language is complicated. Boa Senior’s demise did not merely mark the extinction of a language. It also marked the loss of the culture of which she was once part; a culture that was of great interest to linguists and anthropologists, and whose extinction resulted from oppression and violence. There is, in addition, something melancholy about the very idea of a language’s last speaker; of a person who, like Boa Senior, suffered the loss of everyone to whom she was once able to chat in her mother tongue. All these things – the oppression until death of a once thriving culture, loneliness, and losing loved ones – are bad, regardless of whether they involve language death.

Part of our sadness when a language dies, then, has nothing to do with the language itself. Thriving majority languages do not come with tragic stories, and so they do not arouse our emotions in the same ways. Unsurprisingly, concern for minority languages is often dismissed as sentimental. Researchers on language policy have observed that majority languages tend to be valued for being useful and for facilitating progress, while minority languages are seen as barriers to progress, and the value placed on them is seen as mainly sentimental.

Sentimentality, we tend to think, is an exaggerated emotional attachment to something. It is exaggerated because it does not reflect the value of its object. The late philosopher G A Cohen describes a well-worn, 46-year-old eraser that he bought when he first became a lecturer, and that he would ‘hate to lose’. We all treasure such things – a decades-old rubber, our children’s drawings, a long-expired train ticket from a trip to see the one we love – that are worthless to other people. If the value of minority languages is mainly sentimental, it is comparable to the value that Cohen placed on his old eraser. It would be cruel to destroy it deliberately, yet it would be unreasonable for him to expect society to invest significant resources preserving it. The same might be true of minority languages: their value to some just doesn’t warrant the society-wide effort required to preserve them.

T here are a couple of responses to this. First, the value of minority languages is not purely sentimental. Languages are scientifically interesting. There are whole fields of study devoted to them – to charting their history, relationships to other languages, relationships to the cultures in which they exist, and so on. Understanding languages even helps us to understand the way we think. Some believe that the language we speak influences the thoughts we have, or even that language is what makes thought possible. This claim is associated with the so-called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which the linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker at Harvard has described as ‘wrong, all wrong’.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis is certainly linked to a variety of dubious myths and legends, such as the pervasive but false belief that Eskimos have a mind-bogglingly large number of words for snow. But its core idea is not as wrong-headed as Pinker believes. While there is little evidence that thought would not be possible at all without language, there is plenty of evidence that language influences the way we think and experience the world. For example, depending on which language they are using, fluent German-English bilinguals categorise motion differently, Spanish-Swedish bilinguals represent the passage of time differently, and Dutch-Farsi bilinguals perceive musical pitch differently. Even Pinker apparently finds the link between thought and language compelling: he believes that thoughts are couched in their own language, which he calls ‘mentalese’. In any case, this debate can be settled only empirically, by studying as many different languages (and their speakers) as possible. Which leaves little doubt that languages are valuable for non-sentimental reasons.

Second, let’s take a closer look at sentimental value. Why do we call some ways of valuing ‘sentimental’? We often do this when someone values something to which they have a particular personal connection, as in the case of Cohen and his eraser. Cohen calls this sort of value personal value . Things that have personal value are valued much less by people who do not have the right sort of personal connection to them. Another way of being sentimental is valuing something that is connected to someone or something that we care about. This sort of value is behind the thriving market in celebrity autographs, and it is why parents around the world stick their children’s drawings to the fridge.

The term ‘sentimental’ is gently pejorative: we view sentimentality as an inferior sort of value (compared with, say, practical usefulness), although we are often happy to indulge each other’s sentimental attachments when they don’t cause us inconvenience. Parents’ sentimentality about their kids’ drawings is not inconvenient to others, but sentimentality about minority languages often is, since they require effort and resources to support. This helps to explain why minority languages, to some people, are just not worth the bother.

However, sentimentality is not so easily set aside. Our culture is underpinned by values that, on close inspection, look very much like sentimentality. Consider the following comparison. We can all agree that it is sentimental of Cohen to insist (as he did) that he would decline an opportunity to upgrade his old eraser to a brand-new one. Yet were the Louvre to decline an offer from a skilled forger to exchange the Mona Lisa for an ‘improved’ copy that eliminated the damage suffered over the years by the original, we are unlikely to view this decision as sentimental. On the contrary, were the museum to accept the forger’s offer, we could expect to find this shocking story make headlines around the world. Our contrasting attitudes disguise the fact that the values involved in these two cases are very similar. In each case, an item with a certain history is valued over another, somewhat improved, item with a different history.

Sentimentality explains why it is better to support endangered natural languages rather than Klingon

This sort of value is ubiquitous. We preserve such things as medieval castles, the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Colosseum not because they are useful but because of their historical and cultural significance. When ISIS fighters smashed 5,000-year-old museum exhibits after capturing Mosul in 2015, outraged journalists focused on the destroyed artefacts’ links with ancient and extinct cultures. Historical and cultural significance is part of why we value languages; indeed, the philosopher Neil Levy has argued that it is the main reason to value them. These ways of valuing things are labelled sentimental in some contexts. If minority languages are valuable partly for sentimental reasons then they are in good company.

While valuing minority languages is often viewed as sentimental, it is just as often admired. The documentary We Still Live Here (2010) tells the story of the revival of the Wampanoag language, a Native American language that was dead for more than a century. The film celebrates the language’s revival and the efforts of Jessie Little Doe Baird, who spearheaded its revival, whose ancestors were native speakers, and whose daughter became the revived language’s first native speaker. Baird received a MacArthur Fellowship to carry out her project, and her success attracted widespread media attention and honours, including a ‘Heroes Among Us’ award from the Boston Celtics basketball team.

Across the Atlantic, Katrina Esau, aged 84, is one of only three remaining speakers of N|uu, a South African ‘click’ language. For the past decade, she has run a school in her home, teaching N|uu to local children in an effort to preserve it. In 2014, she received the Order of the Baobab from the country’s president, Jacob Zuma. Both Baird and Esau have received global news coverage for their efforts, which are acclaimed as positive contributions to their community.

It is fortunate that sentimentality can be a respectable sort of attitude. Without it – that is, focusing solely on the scientific and academic value of languages – it is difficult to explain why it is better to preserve currently existing minority languages rather than revive long-dead languages that nobody living today cares about, or why it is better to support endangered natural languages such as the Lencan languages of Central America rather than artificial languages such as Volapük (constructed by a Roman Catholic priest in 19th-century Germany) and Klingon (the extra-terrestrial language in Star Trek ), or why it is better to preserve endangered natural languages than to invent completely new languages.

Even people who are unsympathetic to efforts to support minority languages are, I imagine, less baffled by Esau’s desire to preserve N|uu than they would be by a campaign for the creation and proliferation of a completely new artificial language. No such campaign exists, of course, despite the fact that creating and promoting a new language would be scientifically interesting. The reason why it’s better to preserve currently existing natural languages than to create new ones is because of the historical and personal value of the former. These are exactly the sort of values associated with sentimentality.

M inority languages, then, are valuable. Does that mean that societies should invest in supporting them? Not necessarily. The value of minority languages might be outweighed by the value of not supporting them. Let’s look at two reasons why this might be the case: the burden that supporting minority languages places on people, and the benefits of reducing language diversity.

While we might value minority languages for similar reasons that we value medieval castles, there is an important difference in how we can go about preserving the two types of thing. Preserving a minority language places a greater burden on people than does preserving a castle. We can preserve a castle by paying people to maintain it. But we can’t preserve a minority language by paying people to carry out maintenance. Instead, we must get people to make the language a big part of their lives, which is necessary if they are to become competent speakers. Some people do this voluntarily, but if we want the language to grow beyond a pool of enthusiasts, we must impose lifestyle changes on people whether they like it or not. Often this involves legislation to ensure that children learn the minority language at school.

Such policies are controversial. Some parents think that it would be better for their children to learn a useful majority language rather than a less useful minority language. However, for native English speakers, the most commonly taught majority languages – French, German, Spanish, Italian – are not as useful as they first seem. A language is useful for a child to learn if it will increase the amount of people she can communicate with, increase the amount of places where she can make herself understood, and perhaps also if it is the language of a neighbouring country. Yet, because English is widely spoken in countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy, even an English-speaking monoglot can make himself understood pretty well when visiting these countries. If he decides to invest effort in learning one of these languages, he can expect relatively little return on his investment in terms of usefulness.

If people in English-speaking countries are concerned about teaching children useful languages, we should teach them languages whose native speakers less commonly understand English, such as Arabic and Mandarin – languages that are not commonly taught in schools in the UK and the US. There are, of course, some native English speakers who believe that learning any foreign language is pointless because English is so widely understood – think of the stereotypical British ex-pat living in Spain but not learning Spanish – but this view is clearly not held by parents who are supportive of their children learning some foreign language. So people who support English-speaking children learning French, German and Spanish, but who don’t support them learning a local minority language, will have difficulty defending their position in terms of usefulness. In that case, why is it so widely seen as a good thing for English-speaking children to learn majority languages such as French, German and Spanish? I think it is the same reason that many claim it’s a good thing to learn a minority language: to gain an insight into an unfamiliar culture, to be able to signal respect by speaking to people in the local language, to hone the cognitive skills one gains by learning a language, and so on.

Languages have not become extinct or endangered gently. The history of language death is a violent one

There is also, I think, a special kind of enrichment that children – and people in general – get from learning a minority language connected to their community. They get a new insight into their community’s culture and history. They also gain the ability to participate in aspects of their culture that, without knowing the language, are closed off and even invisible; namely, events and opportunities conducted in the minority language. I write from experience here, having spent the past 18 months or so trying to learn Welsh. I was born and raised in Wales yet, until recently, my main contact with the language consisted mainly of ignoring it. Returning to Wales now, armed with my admittedly modest understanding of Welsh, I have a sense of this long-familiar country becoming visible to me in a new way. I feel pleased and interested when I encounter Welsh speakers. I am happy that my nephew learns Welsh at school. These strong conservative intuitions are – for a non-conservative like me – surprising and somewhat alien. But they are not unique: they centre on benefits that are frequently mentioned by campaigners for minority languages.

Finally, let’s consider a very different reason to resist the view that we should support minority languages. Language diversity is a barrier to successful communication. The Bible has a story about this: as a punishment for building the Tower of Babel, God ‘confused the language of all of the Earth’ by causing people to speak a multiplicity of languages where once they had all spoken the same one. It’s rare these days to encounter the view that our diversity of languages is a curse, but it’s notable that in other areas of communication – such as in the representation of numbers, length and volume – we favour standardisation. The advantages to adopting a single language are clear. It would enable us to travel anywhere in the world, confident that we could communicate with the people we met. We would save money on translation and interpretation. Scientific advances and other news could be shared faster and more thoroughly. By preserving a diversity of languages, we preserve the obstacles to communication. Wouldn’t it be better to allow as many languages as possible to die out, leaving us with just one universal lingua franca ?

It would be difficult, however, to implement a lingua franca peacefully and justly. The very idea calls to mind oppressive past policies, such as the efforts of the Soviet Union to suppress local languages and to force all its citizens to communicate only in Russian. Extinct and endangered languages have not, on the whole, become extinct or endangered gently, by subsequent generations choosing freely to switch to a more dominant language. The history of language death is a violent one, as is reflected in the titles of books on the subject: David Crystal’s Language Death (2000), Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine’s Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages (2000), and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas’s Linguistic Genocide in Education (2008).

It would, then, be difficult to embrace a lingua franca without harming speakers of other languages. In addition, if we were serious about acting justly, it would not be enough merely to abstain from harming communities of minority language speakers. Given the injustices that such communities have suffered in the past, it might be that they are owed compensation. This is a view commonly held by minority-language campaigners. It is debatable what form this compensation should take, but it seems clear that it should not include wiping out and replacing the local language.

Perhaps, if one were a god creating a world from scratch, it would be better to give the people in that world one language rather than many, like the pre-Babel civilisations described in the Bible. But now that we have a world with a rich diversity of languages, all of which are interwoven with distinct histories and cultures, and many of which have survived ill-treatment and ongoing persecution, yet which continue to be celebrated and defended by their communities and beyond – once we have all these things, there is no going back without sacrificing a great deal of what is important and valuable.

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